With two days in the fascinating city of Lhasa, you’ll have enough time to take things easy on day one to acclimatize to the elevation—Lhasa is at 11,990 feet (3,656 meters) above sea level—but still take in many of the city’s highlights at a leisurely pace. Here’s how to get the most out of 48 hours in Lhasa.
Day 1: Visit Monasteries Around Lhasa
Morning: In the morning, head to the Drepung Monastery, the largest monastery in Tibet, just outside Lhasa. It’s a large complex with lots to see, but not so big that you’ll get worn out on your first day at high altitude. The colorful paintings on the cliffs above the monastery are a highlight.
Afternoon: This afternoon, visit Sera Monastery, a famous university monastery where young monks energetically debate Buddhist philosophy in the courtyard. Those interested in local culture or religion should be sure to catch a debate, which are open to the public and usually take place midafternoon.
Night: Indulge in some local culture this evening, with a traditional operatic or musical show combined with a hearty Tibetan meal. Combining elements of Tibetan and Chinese traditions, these performances are a fun way to experience traditional cultural practices.
Day 2: Lhasa’s Holiest Sites
Morning: Chances are, by day two you will be more ready for some physical activity. This morning, visit Potala Palace, Lhasa’s iconic 7th-century palace that was once the home of the Dalai Lamas. The huge, whitewashed stone building is impressive from the outside, plus there’s a lot to see inside, too.
Afternoon: Centrally located in the center of the old-town area, Jokhang Temple is the holiest temple in Tibet, and worshippers flock to the temple to prostrate themselves in prayer. Spend this afternoon perusing the temple’s impressive Buddhist statues and mandalas and taking in the wonderful views of Lhasa from its rooftop.
Night: Potala Palace is beautifully lit up at night, so take a stroll here on your final evening. Enjoy a relaxed meal afterwards, with Tibetan and mainstream Chinese cuisine available all over the city. Momos (steamed dumplings) and thukpa (noodle soup) are a delicious and warming way to round off your visit.